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Friday, 21 November 2014

College Football Heating Up While Temperatures Cool Down
#CFBPlayoff Gets Interesting, #CIS National Semi-Finals Highlight the Weekend Action

#TwineTime is back from a a memorable trip in Iceland, just in time for some college football action.  While I was unable to make predictions last week, it was still an entertaining week to watch unfold.  the #CFBPlayoff is causing lots of interesting conversations while up here in Canada, #CIS action has crowned conference champions (some a HUGE surprise) and are ready for national semi-final action.

#NCAA

Last Week (ok, 2 weeks ago really):  30 - 13 (70%)
Overall:  187 - 74 (69%)

Last time I checked in on this blog, we had 3 SEC teams in the Top 5 with many arguing the probability of all 3 making the playoff.  Fast forward two weeks and it appears we have 1 clear cut favorite from the SEC but the theory of 2, let alone 3, teams making the playoff is questionable.  Let's take a look at the playoff standings from the committee and compare to how I rank the top teams:

Selection Committee                                           #TwineTime

1. Alabama                                                          1. Oregon
2. Oregon                                                             2. Florida State
3. Florida State                                                    3. Alabama
4. Mississippi State                                             4. Baylor
5. TCU                                                                 5. TCU
6. Ohio State                                                        6.Mississippi State

Well, don't we have some explaining to do this week.  The past few weeks I have generally been on board with the selection committee choices.  This week, CHAOS!!  Oregon as a 1 or 2 seems like a sure thing right now, assuming they win out.  I honestly have no issue with them being in either of these spots.  I will admit I may be a bit biased in my opinion as I think the PAC-12 is a stronger conference than the ACC and I think could challenge the SEC this year.  Florida State being ranked 3 does seem weird.  They are the defending national champions and are the last major undefeated team (sorry Marshall, I love you guys but you are not a major player in this conversation).  Yes, FSU is escaping some of their games but they are still winning.  Alabama has not been a dominant team in all their games either.  They lost to an Ole Miss team that keeps struggling and is not as good as their ranking.  They barely escaped an average Arkansas team and barely escaped LSU and Mississippi State the past two weeks.  Now I will agree, those teams carry a higher weight of influence over the teams Florida State has beaten, but FSU is still undefeated and I think that counts for something.  In the end, all 3 of these teams seem like locks for the Final 4 assuming they win out.  I suppose arguing over placement is a bit minor in the grand scheme (at least for now).

Again, it is that 4th position that will cause the biggest argument amongst teams, the committee, media and fans.  Is Mississippi State getting this 4th spot just reaffirming the SEC bias that has always been argued?  Does Ohio State really deserve to be ranked above Baylor when the Big 10 has been weak all season and the Buckeyes one loss to Virginia Tech is looking worse as the season goes on?  Why are TCU and Baylor getting no love when both have looked very good all season?  Shouldn't Baylor's 1 loss in West Virgina and victory over TCU outweigh Ohio State's win over Michigan State and loss to VTech?  TCU has a loss to Baylor but, unlike the Bears, did win at West Virginia.  I think if you put TCU or Baylor on the field vs. Mississippi State in an elimination game, neutral field, the Frogs/Bears walk out with the victory.  As of right now, Baylor did beat TCU.  According to my rankings, that would come down to a de facto elimination tiebreaker game.  The Baylor Bears won and deserve to be in the playoff, right now.  They still have to beat Kansas State at the end of the year, but that game is at home...advantage Bears!

Let's get on to this week's games (and I am still trying to stay perfect on Friday night games btw)....

Rice over UTEP - Ok if there was a Friday night game where my winning streak could end, it is tonight and it is this game.  This is a tough call but I am going with the home team favorites.

Air Force over San Diego State

Utah State over San Jose State

Florida over Eastern Kentucky - SEC vs Cupcake 1

Georgia over Charleston Southern - SEC vs Cupcake 2

South Carolina over South Alabama - SEC vs Cupcake 3 (notice a trend this week??)

Fordham over Army

(25) Minnesota over (23) Nebraska - I still believe in the Gophers and after the ass kicking Wisconsin handed the Huskers last weekend, I like the Gophers chances to kick their prey while they are down.

Northwestern over Purdue

(11) Michigan State over Rutgers

Marshall over UAB - This could be the trap game for Marshall.  At UAB, against a good Dragons team, this could be the week the undefeated streak comes to an end.  Marshall is still playing for one of the prestigious New Years bowl games and Colorado State is breathing down their necks for that one spot.  They cannot slip up...

Western Kentucky over UTSA

UCF over SMU - Stay winless Mustangs!

(21) Oklahoma over Kansas

Penn State over Illinois

(6) Ohio State over Indiana - Buckeyes need to keep winning to hold onto their dream of making the playoff, victories over Indiana will not help though.  Unfortunately a loss would kill them.  This is a no win game for Buckey.

Virginia Tech over Wake Forest

Louisiana Tech over Old Dominion - Tech trying to stay undefeated in C-USA

Western Michigan over Central Michigan - It has been awhile since two directional Michigan schools played each other in a very meaningful game.  Western is 7-3, 5-1 MAC and Central is 7-4, 5-2 MAC.  This is going to be a great game.

(13) Arizona State over Washington State - Oh Sun Devils, you had everything going for you.  An easy schedule and alignment to the PAC-12 championship game vs Oregon.  You had a shot at the Final 4.  Then the Beavers ruined it all!  Good luck making the PAC-12 championship game now and those national championship dreams are gone.  Let's see if Wazzu can take advantage of disheartened Devils team this weekend.

Colorado State over New Mexico - See description of Marshall game above.

LA-Lafayette over Appalachian State - Cajuns trying to run the Sun Belt undefeated.

Ball State over Eastern Michigan

BYU over Savannah State

(17) Utah over (15) Arizona - Expect this game to go into OT, with the winning team pulling out a 1 - 3 point victory.  It is going to be a close battle.  Both teams with outside shots of winning the PAC-12 South.  One team's dream will continue, one will be done.  Utah at home could be the difference.

Arkansas over (8) Ole Miss - See all my previous blogs for my thoughts on Ole Miss (hint: OVERRATED!!).  Arkansas is looking very good, coming off a HUGE shutout win over LSU and finally have their first SEC win of the season.  Can you say SEC winning streak?

(24) Louisville over Notre Dame - I have picked on the Irish all season as being overrated and Northwestern proved me correct.  Yes this game is in South Bend, a difficult place to win for opposing teams.  But the Wildcats did it, the Cards are a better team, thus the Cards can win as well.

(3) Florida State over Boston College - If this game was at BC, I would actually say FSu could be primed for an upset in this one.  But being in friendly Tallahassee, cannot see the Seminoles losing now.

(22) Clemson over Georgia State

(16) Wisconsin over Iowa - Hear that loud stampede running towards you?  That is the might running badgers!  Watch out for them...they are looking like the perfect team to walk away as Big 10 champs this year!

Maryland over Michigan

Iowa State over Texas Tech - Finally the Cyclones pick up a Big 12 victory.  If this game wasn't in Ames, I probably would be taking the Red Raiders.

FIU over North Texas

East Carolina over Tulane - Remember when the Pirates looked to be the team to break through into the playoff?  Nope, neither does anyone else now.

Pittsburgh over Syracuse

Memphis over South Florida

Stanford over Cal - Ah The Big Game rivalry.  It is interesting to see both teams with 5-5 records but both enter this game on opposite sides of the ball.  Stanford has to consider this season a huge disappointment.  Cal is considering this season to be a huge unexpected surprise.  In the end though, that Cardinal D should out muscle the Bears.  Strike up the band....

Alabama over Western Carolina - SEC vs Cupcake 4...embarrassing to see the number 1 team in the country still scheduling games like this, this late in the season.  The SEC should be embarrassed and almost punished for this kind of scheduling.

UL Monroe over New Mexico State

(2) Oregon over Colorado - Ducks have their last home game of the season, not the time to slip up.  Should have clear sailing to the Final 4 right now...SHOULD!

(14) Auburn over Samford - SEC vs Cupcake 5

Miami (Fl) over Virginia

Middle Tennessee over Florida Atlantic

(7) Baylor over Oklahoma State - Bears are 29.5 pt favorites in this game and cannot let their guard down.  The Bears have 3 games left to impress the committee, all at home.  Win out and a playoff spot should be theirs.

(20) Missouri over Tennessee - This is a trendy "upset" game to pick with home team and favorite Tennessee being picked to knock off the ranked Tigers.  Remember this is an 8-2, 5-1 SEC Tigers team playing for a spot in the SEC championship game.  I would not sell on this team quite yet.

(4) Mississippi State over Vanderbilt - SEC vs Cupca....oh wait, nope this is an all-SEC battle.  Oops!

(9) UCLA over (19) USC - Another PAC-12 South elimination game.  UCLA is in the drivers seat for the championship match-up with Oregon.  The Trojans still have dreams of their own to make it to that game....and would love to be the team to end the Bruins dream.  Expect a blood bath in this rivalry game.

Cincinnati over UCONN

Boise State over Wyoming

Nevada over Fresno State

Washington over Oregon State - Ok Oregon State, last weekend was impressive.  I didn't know you had it in you.  Unfortunately I think you have reached midnight on your season.  Glass slipper will fall off this week in Seattle.  The Huskies enter the game feeling like they should have beat Arizona last weekend and will want some revenge.  Do Huskies eat Beavers?  This week, I think so!

Hawaii over UNLV - Hawaii at home vs a weaker opponent?  Yup Hawaii is the favorite, by 10.5 points!!  Wowzers....

#CIS

Last Week (2 weeks, you get it):  6 - 1 (86%)
Overall:  42 - 17 (71%)

Welcome to Canada's edition of the #CFBPlayoff Final 4!!  We are two games away from finding out who will play for the Vanier Cup in Montreal this year.  We have our two semi-final bowl games (Uteck and Mitchell) this weekend.  

I missed last weekend's three conference championship games but I will be honest with you...what a surprise!  I honestly would not have picked Montreal to upset Laval in Laval or Manitoba to upset Calgary in Calgary.  These were HUGE upsets!  Sure added a more exciting dynamic to this weekend's semi-final games.  Honestly, any four of the teams playing this weekend I can see playing in the Vanier and winning.  We really do have a coin toss here people.  I know the action south of the border gets most of the attention but this weekend, I am actually really looking forward to watching these two games.  Sidenote, it will be a battle of the "M" schools...oddly enough the Final 4 are all schools beginning with the letter "M" (Manitoba, Montreal, McMaster, Mount Allison).  I don't think that has ever happened before!

UTECK BOWL - Canada West @ RSEQ

Manitoba (4-4, 2-0) over Montreal (7-1, 2-0) - Ok so Montreal is coming off a HUGE upset of Laval.  Montreal is playing at home.  Montreal is hosting the Vanier Cup next weekend.  This game is sold out.  Montreal has the better record this season and is ranked higher.  So why am I going with the Bisons?  The Bisons have burned me more times this season than any other team.  They have an explosive offense, shown in their playoff games (47 and 27 points scored on the road).  The Carabins have not seen as explosive of an offense all season.  The Canada West is known to be able to score points and lots of them.  Montreal does have the advantage of defense mind you, they held the number one ranked Rouge et Or to only 9 points last weekend.  However a 12 - 9 OT win may look impressive defensively, the lack of offense is worrisome.  The Bison entered the playoffs without a road win all season, now they have two....from the playoffs...in Saskatoon and Calgary.  If Montreal can keep the Bison high-scoring offense in line, the Carabins could roll to a win.  If Manitoba finds the end zone, they can go blow for blow with the Montreal offense and come out on top.  Low scoring game, Montreal wins.  High scoring game, advantage Manitoba!

Mitchell Bowl - AUS @ OUA

Mount Allison (8-0, 1-0) over McMaster (7-1, 2-0) - I am taking the upset in this game.  McMaster is home and will be the overwhelming favorite.  Generally Ontario schools usually push around the Atlantic schools.  On paper, many people may think this should be a cake walk win for McMaster.  I am not so sure.  Mount Allison is the only undefeated team in the country.  They won the Loney Bowl (AUS Championship) two weeks ago and had the advantage of sitting back last weekend and watching the Yates Cup to see who they would be playing.  In a season full of upsets, why can't we expect to see one more huge upset.  Can Mount Allison be the surprise of the season and take home the Vanier Cup?  Why not?  Well McMaster may have something to say about it.  McMaster is a very good team.  They won the Vanier Cup three years ago (a game I was at and actually caught the championship winning field goal btw).  They lost the Vanier Cup rematch vs. Laval two years ago.  This is a team that expects to win....and wins a lot.  History is on the side of the home team.  A team from the AUS hasn't made the Vanier Cup since 2007, when Saint Mary's lost to Manitoba.  In fact, in the past 6 seasons, the AUS champ has not even put up a close fight in the semi-final game.  This year could be different.   

There you have it.  I am actually taking both upsets this weekend.  If my predictions are correct, we will see a Manitoba vs Mount Allison Vanier Cup next weekend....who would have bet on that match up when the season started?  Of course, if recent history has taught us anything, expect a McMaster vs Montreal Vanier Cup.

Enjoy the gridiron action......